Speaking at the opening of Coca Cola Amatil’s Christchurch bottling plant, group managing director Terry Davis called on the Government to consider “incentives” for food and beverage manufacturers (Press, 19/1/12; “Coca-Cola calls for incentives”).
Why? This is a very slippery slope. Why should the New Zealand taxpayer subsidise a gigantic transnational corporation such as Coca Cola, one for whom the $15m cost of the bottling plant would be what its American executives would refer to as “chump change”? Would they like breakfast in bed while they’re at it? And this is not even to raise the subject of whether Coca-Cola itself is a product worthy of any taxpayers’ dollars.
The Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa (CAFCA) says that it simply adds insult to injury for the transnational corporations which dominate the NZ economy to demand that the New Zealand people pay them for the privilege of profiting from us. But don’t take our word for it. A decade ago when the Labour government gave taxpayers’ money to giant American transnational EDS National’s associate commerce spokesman called it “corporate welfare” (Press, 12/3/03). And who was that then obscure National MP? None other than John Key. It’s a rare day when CAFCA agrees with National but Key expressed our views exactly.
Of course, once in power, Key became the transnationals’ biggest sugar daddy, as evidenced by the squalid Warner Brothers/ “The Hobbit” saga in 2010. What happened to calling it “corporate welfare”, Prime Minister?
In the US, individual states, counties and cities undercut each other to attract foreign investment, such as car assembly plants, with guaranteed union-free workplaces. Some US states have paid transnational corporations (TNCs) hundreds of millions of dollars to pick them. “You want our foreign investment? OK, then you’ll have to pay us to come there. And pay again for us to stay".
Of all cities in New Zealand, Christchurch should be the one most wary of offering “incentives” to transnational corporations. In December 2002 Pratt and Whitney, a huge US transnational, announced an $80 million expansion of its Christchurch Airport jet engine testing centre; yet, by March 2003, Christchurch’s then Mayor, Garry Moore, announced that the centre would close and move overseas, with all jobs lost, unless the Council put up $20 million of ratepayers’ money. Sir Angus Tait, chairman of Tait Electronics, put it most succinctly when he said: " …One could, a little unkindly, interpret it as Air New Zealand and Pratt and Whitney putting a gun to the city’s head, saying ‘build this new building or we’ll go elsewhere’" (Press, 1/3/03).
Don’t worry about the much maligned solo mothers and other beneficiaries who are regularly attacked and subjected to draconian measures. They’re not remotely in the same league. It’s the transnational corporations who are the country’s biggest bludgers. They suck billions of dollars in profits out of this country every year, so they can well afford to pay their own way (whatever happened to “market forces”?). If anything, they should be paying the NZ people for the privilege of being allowed to operate here.